Category Archives: From the Staff

From the Director ~ Thanksgiving 2022

Dear Friends,

Happy Thanksgiving! Here at the Mission, we have so much to thank God for – prayers answered, needs met, relationships restored, staff that were supplied at just the right time…I could go on. We’ve seen God provide what we needed before we even knew there was a need! Each instance is a reminder that God is so very good. Things like the chess tournament Shorty just organized (which Kisho and Andrew won), or the 10-year-old granddaughter’s birthday party that Cory just attended – these are reminders of God’s goodness. It’s easy to think of these things and give thanks. And so we should!

And then there are other things we thank God for – things for which giving thanks feels more like a sacrifice. Things we know are good, even though they’re hard – like when God starts tearing down long-standing strongholds in a person’s life one stone at a time. That can be hard and painful work. Often it involves losing some things that are precious to us. But the light of the Gospel – the good news that Jesus brings life, reconciliation, healing, forgiveness, recovery, and peace – begins to shine through the newly-formed cracks in those stronghold walls. And when it does, we begin to realize even more profoundly just how good God is.

We’re also thankful for the way the Lord makes us a family here at the Mission. Holidays can be hard and lonely for folks struggling with addictions, homelessness, and the like. The strain of broken family relationships weighs especially heavy at times like these. We try our best to make the Mission as warm and inviting as possible. We pull out all the stops for Thanksgiving. It’s a joy to pause the normal activities of life for a day and just gather to worship the Lord, feast on good food, and fellowship around the tables with our brothers and sisters. It’s a reminder that none of us is alone, and that God is so good to us.

Please give thanks with us for the good work God continues to do in this place. And if the Lord should lay it upon your heart, please consider partnering with us in the work that lies ahead! Thank you for your prayers, your donations of needed items, and your financial support! May the Lord bless and keep you and yours this Thanksgiving in His mercy, love and grace!

Grace and peace,

Heather L. Rice, D.Min.
Executive Director

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From the Director ~ September 2022

Dear friends

As we approach the end of our fiscal year September 30th, we have much to thank God for! It’s been a BIG year for us. We’ve definitely experienced huge change (and all the normal aches and pains that go along with such change). At the same time, we’ve thankfully enjoyed ongoing stability and significant growth.

Financially, it looks like we will end the year in the black with all of our expenses covered. That’s even with some capital projects we tackled this year including a new roof, a major repointing project, a new walk-in refrigerator, and all new computers. That’s a huge praise! We’ve significantly expanded our staffing (and with it our annual expenses) by hiring an Executive Assistant and a Program Director. Both were necessary for me to step away from some daily tasks and into the role of Executive Director. Bob Emberger continues to be a tremendous help mentoring me in my new role, coordinating our volunteers and church partnerships, and doing grant writing. We’ve also increased our minimum starting salary to make sure every team member earns a livable wage. We have a great staff that continues to joyfully love and serve the men in Jesus’ Name. All of this lends great stability to the Mission community.

This stability, in turn, has allowed us to keep on growing and developing the scope and quality of the program services we offer. Over the past year we began covering 50% of the money our graduates needed to move into their own apartments. We’ve been tweaking the New Life Program to better fit today’s job market and our residents’ current needs. We’ve leaned even harder into celebrating residents’ milestones and achievements, like publicly honoring men when they advance in the Program from the Foundations Phase to the Careers Phase and begin their job search. We’ve added more layers of addiction recovery support, and we’re actively trying to cultivate an atmosphere of hope in the midst of all that is broken in our lives, families, city, and beyond. These things and more are the results of asking the simple question, “What does it look like to love God and others right here, right now?”

That’s a question the Mission has been asking for decades. It helps us focus on people, not programming. It allows us to meet men where they are and adjust what we do to help. Thank you for your part in helping to love our men well. As we begin our new fiscal year on October 1st, your generous financial support is needed more than ever as we all continue to experience increased expenses. Thank you in advance for your support, prayers, and encouragement!

Grace and peace,

Heather L. Rice, D.Min.
Executive Director

Don’t mind our squinting faces – it was sunny! But you can see some of our newly pointed front wall. You’ll also notice that our flowers are still alive and thriving!
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From the Director ~ July/August 2022

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Germantown where the Lord continues to do great things! Sometimes those things are big and loud. Other times they’re quiet and subtle. But we rejoice in them all. We celebrated with two New Life Program graduates who just moved into their own places this past month. Another gentleman was invited to his 7-year-old daughter’s kindergarten graduation. He made her a card and a ticket for one free movie outing with dad (which she redeemed that very afternoon!). They had a lovely daddy/daughter date. There’s much to celebrate.

The Lord has also been working in the heavier, harder things. Two of our residents recently lost loved ones. Another man received a tough medical diagnosis. Each of these men has stayed through the trial thus far. They are plugging into community and reaching out for help rather than running away to hide or relying on old habits to numb the pain. We rejoice in this good work of God, too, even while we grieve, pray, love, and hope.

And then there are the men who just keep plugging away through the ordinary obstacles of life. They’re choosing to keep on doing one right thing after another and trusting God to bless and provide. Will is one such gentleman. He recently shared a bit of his story. You can read it here. I think you’ll enjoy it (especially if you like Tastykakes). I certainly do.

My late dad was a Tastykake guy for most of his career. One evening, when I was little, we were all sitting around the dinner table after dad got home from work. When we had finished, he said “Hey Heather, I have something for you in my jacket pocket.” I excitedly ran to the next room and fished in his pocket for what I was sure would be a banana creamie, my favorite Tastykake at the time (they don’t make them anymore!). Instead, it was a digital Cabbage Patch Kid watch with a purple leather band that he picked up from a guy on his route. I declared “A Cabbage Patch Kid watch! That was my next guess!” After my parents finished laughing, my dad said “No it wasn’t! You didn’t even know such a thing existed until now!” He had a point.

When I saw that watch, I realized it’s what I would have wanted, if only I knew it existed. Often, it’s the same way here at the Mission. Men come looking for one thing – help overcoming an addiction, getting a job, or a place to stay. But then they encounter the love of Jesus and realize that God wants to give them so much more – peace, joy, forgiveness, hope, and a good future. Thanks for your part in helping men find not only what they came for, but so much more.

Grace and peace,

Heather L. Rice, D.Min.
Executive Director

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Urgent Need Met! Walk-In Refrigerator

UPDATE: Thank you to all who helped us reach our goal!

Our 14-year-old large walk-in refrigerator needs to be replaced as soon as possible. The whole project will cost us $17,950. Friends just committed $10,000 to replace the fridge. We’re looking to raise the remaining $7,950. We serve about 165 meals each day to men working hard to overcome addictions, find good jobs, and secure their own permanent housing. Any help is deeply appreciated!

https://www.facebook.com/donate/560075255849541/

Thanks!

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From the Director ~ June 2022

Dear friends,

With summer upon us, we’re grateful for good air conditioning in our main building. We had our system switched over from heat to air just one day before that 90+ degree weekend hit us in May. The relief is worth the increased electric bill – especially for several of our residents with serious health issues that affect their breathing (like asthma, COPD, and congestive heart failure). Thank you for your part in helping to keep the air conditioning on and our residents breathing easier!

Life around the Mission continues full speed ahead with all its joys and struggles. Pray for our residents – that the Lord would grant freedom for those struggling with addictions, encouragement for the weary, the opening of doors for those that are stuck, good jobs for those looking for work, and safe, affordable housing for those who are ready to graduate and move on. We have seen again and again how the Lord opens doors and provides in ways that we could never expect or imagine. It’s always a delight to witness.

Joey

One such joy is Joey. It’s been a pleasure to watch his growth and success. He persevered through several difficult situations. He stuck it out at a tough job until he found a better one. He kept to his budget and saved up and eventually found a place. I recently had the joy of signing a check payable to his new landlord for 50% of his security deposit, first and last month’s rent – all of which was due at lease signing. Joey graduated from the New Life Program and moved into his new place on May 19th! Joey, his family, and the whole Mission community could not be happier for him. Pray for Joey as he settles into this new season of life.

Thank you for all the ways you help and support men like Joey. Your prayers, financial support, and donations of items from our needs list are a blessing (you’ll find an updated needs list here). The Lord bless and keep you in His grace!

Grace and peace,

Heather L. Rice, D.Min.
Executive Director

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From the Director ~ May 2022

Dear Friends,

Blessings to you and yours! As I think about the “yours” of that last phrase, I think about family – both family by blood and family by love. Sometimes, in the brokenness of this world, families drift apart. Addiction, homelessness, and incarceration, among other challenges, have a way of driving families apart even farther. It can get lonely. But thankfully, the Lord delights to place those who are lonely in families. Psalm 68:5-6 says it this way, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, He leads forth the prisoners with singing…” This is what He does at the Mission all the time!

There is healing that happens in relationship. As men come to the Mission and form deep bonds of love and friendship with fellow residents, the Lord has a way of lessening the loneliness. Many times, as men grow and change while working hard to rebuild their lives at the Mission, opportunities to reconnect with long lost family arise. But when that happens, sometimes it comes with new waves of grief. Some men reconnect with family only to find out that while they were lost to the streets or their addiction, a loved one died, and they are now buried and gone. Sometimes that loved one is a parent or grandparent, or perhaps an aunt who raised them.

Our own Rev. Dr. Bob Emberger’s sister, Kay, recently passed away. Keep him in prayer. Losing a loved one is always hard, but it’s especially difficult to officiate at their funeral as Bob did for Kay. By God’s grace, the Embergers are blessed with the gift of family in the midst of their grief, including a brother/uncle/father/cousin in Bob who could minister to them and point them to the sustaining love of Jesus in the midst of their sorrow. But imagine the added layer of sorrow for someone who misses out on the support that comes from being together as a family in the midst of their grief. When this happens to our men, they are left to grieve alone. It’s at times like these that the Mission family naturally and spontaneously reaches out to surround and uphold their brother. They encourage and help one another like family.

Thank you for your part in making it possible for the Mission to be such a safe, rich, and nurturing family. May God bless and keep you and yours!

Grace and peace,

Heather L. Rice, D.Min.
Executive Director

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From the Director ~ April 2022

Dear friends,

So much has been happening around the Mission, I hardly know where to begin! First of all, I want to start with a great big THANK YOU. Since Bob Emberger shared the news of our leadership transition, we have not ceased to be encouraged! As you may have heard, March 1st of this year Bob stepped down from being Executive Director because of his health and moved into the vital new role of Director of Advancement. I, in turn, have become the new Executive Director. So many friends have reached out to support and encourage us. We are grateful!

Your prayers are so very necessary and deeply appreciated. Please keep praying for Bob’s continued recovery, strength, and stamina. Pray for me – for wisdom and a heart that is open to the Lord’s leading. Pray for our residents and staff and their families – that the Lord would give grace upon grace as we seek to follow Him one step at a time.

As winter comes to a close and spring begins, we look ahead with joy and anticipation. We have several long-in-the-works facilities projects finally coming to completion. These will beautify our property, ensure its usefulness for years to come, and facilitate ministry here and now. Our oldest building is 111 years old and with a little love is ready to keep on serving us for many more. We’re also excited to be able once again to have outside church groups come in to do chapels. We have our first groups returning this spring!

Meanwhile, the Mission is a hive of positive, forward-moving activity every day. James is in school studying to be a chef. Will started a job at Tastykake (and brings us Butterscotch Krimpets!). Lamont put together a workable budget, saved up enough money from his job at a local pizza place, graduated from the New Life Program and moved out into his own place. We also just hired two New Life Program residents to work full time at the Mission – Roger as a Thrift Shop Associate and Michael as our Hospitality Supervisor. There are dozens more like these men, working hard to overcome the obstacles in their path, build a solid foundation for life, achieve their goals, and move into their own permanent housing.

Your support is used by God to make all of this possible. On behalf of the whole Mission family, thank you. God’s richest blessings to you and yours.

Grace and peace,

Heather L. Rice, D.Min.
Executive Director

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From the Director ~ February 2022

Dear Friend of the Mission

Thank you for loving our men with the extravagant love of God. Please our post sharing heart-warming photos that spotlight the new toys that were given to the children and grandchildren of our men and the Christmas gifts that our men received. You will be especially blessed and encouraged by Michael’s “note of thanks.” The Lord’s love doesn’t just turn frowns upside down, but most importantly of all, God’s love makes a person feel loved to the very core of his or her being. God’s love fills a heart with hope and determination to press on.

I have a pretty big announcement to share with you in this letter. As of March 1, 2022, after 33 years of service, I will be stepping down as the Executive Director of the Whosoever Gospel Mission. The great news is that the Lord has raised up the perfect person to be our new Executive Director, Dr. Heather Lynn Rice. Heather is currently our Associate Executive Director. Heather has served with the Whosoever Gospel Mission for 29 years starting as a freshman volunteer in Central High School. When she went to college, Heather worked part-time at the Mission and then became full-time upon graduating from college. Heather then earned both her masters and doctoral degrees while serving at the Mission in many different roles and capacities. For many years she served as my Executive Assistant before becoming our Associate Executive Director. I will become the Executive Director Emeritus on March 1st. I will also pick up a new title, Director of Advancement. My job as Director of Advancement will be to do whatever I can do to bless and prosper the Mission both internally with our ministries and externally raising the funds and resources we need to continue sharing God’s love with the broken and hurting homeless men who come to the Mission looking for help. I am stepping down as the Executive Director for health reasons. As you know, I had extensive open heart surgery last May. Thankfully it was a success, because without it I had only 1-2 months to live. However, the surgery resulted in significantly decreased energy and stamina, and lymphedema and weakness in both legs. I still hope to work 40 hours a week as Director of Advancement, but I can no longer put in the 50 plus hours a week required as the Executive Director. Thank you for supporting me as the Executive Director for 33 years. It has been a good run. I am excited that Heather is taking the helm as our new Executive Director. She will do an amazing job. Please pray for her, and please continue to generously support the Mission to let Heather know that you are standing with her in her new role. With joy, serving at the Whosoever Gospel Mission has been the best job ever. Thank you for being part of it.

With peace and thanks to the Lord,

Robert A. Emberger, D.Min.
Executive Director

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From the Director ~ Christmas 2021

Dear Friend of the Mission,

When I was growing up in the 1960’s, Christmas at my house was always a magical time filled with wonder and joy. I never got too excited about Santa Claus, but I did get excited about the Sears Catalog that was brimming with pictures of the most wonderful toys. I would spend hours looking through it trying to figure out what I wanted for Christmas. And my mom and sisters would make mouth-watering Christmas cookies. The Christmas TV specials were always fun. Our house would be decorated for the holidays with lights on our tree and lights in the windows, and I can still hear the long-play record albums playing Christmas songs by Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Rosemary Clooney, Mel Torme, Andy Williams, Angela Lansbury, Burl Ives, and of course, Alvin and the Chipmunks. The longest night of the year was Christmas Eve, waiting for the morning to come when I could open my presents. Throughout the night I would go to my parents’ bedroom (in the dark, mind you) and ask if it was morning yet. And then on Christmas Day, my mom would make the best Christmas dinner ever.

But when you are homeless, you don’t have any of these things. When you are homeless, the Christmas song “There is no place like home for the holidays” is like rubbing salt in the wounds. The harsh streets of Philadelphia are not a home, sleeping in an abandoned building or car is not much of a home, and even staying in an overnight emergency shelter doesn’t really add up to much of a home. In contrast, we work hard to make the Whosoever Gospel Mission a warm and welcoming home for the holidays. We will be decorating our chapel with festive holiday decorations made for us by the kindergarten students at William Penn Charter School, our Christmas tree will look spectacular, our daily chapels will be filled with joyous Christmas carols, we will be conducting our annual toy giveaway for the children and grandchildren of our men, on Christmas Eve each of our men will receive several Christmas gifts donated by churches, families, schools and individuals, Christmas cookies will be enjoyed throughout the entire Christmas season, our men will feast upon delicious Christmas meals, and the Christmas story which joyfully proclaims peace on earth and goodwill toward men and women will be celebrated throughout the season. Jesus is the reason for the season, and we try to do Christmas up big for our men so they too might experience the joy of Jesus.

As we quickly move toward the end of 2021, please consider making a special gift to the Mission so that we can give our men the joy and hope of Christmas not just at Christmas, but on each and every day throughout the coming New Year. Here are several great ways you can help:

  1. Give a generous year-end gift of cash. God will use your gift to impact and change lives.
  2. Some families bless our men by pooling their money and giving a special Christmas gift to the Mission from their family (individual receipts for each donor can still be given).
  3. If God has especially blessed you this past year, please consider sending a larger than usual gift to the Mission. Large gifts take big bites out of our budgeted expenses. They also strengthen and expand our compassionate services to our men. Your gift will be used to make life-giving, life-changing, and life-saving differences in the lives of our men.
  4. Give the Mission a gift of appreciated stock. A gift of appreciated stock is always a great help and can also provide you with some excellent tax benefits, especially if you transfer the stock directly to the Mission rather than first selling it. Please consult with your financial advisor to confirm these tax benefits. We can easily arrange for an electronic transfer of your stock. Please call me at 215 438 3094 (ext 102).
  5. If you have a donor-advised fund, you can recommend that a grant be made to the Whosoever Gospel Mission. Your grant will bless our men in many ways.
  6. You can make up to a $100,000 Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) to the Mission instead of taking your required minimum distribution (RMD). Your distribution must be sent by your IRA custodian directly to the Mission. The effect in most situations is both an income tax savings and an increased gift. Please consult with your financial advisor.
  7. Save postage and time – you can go to our Whosoever Gospel Mission website to make an online donation. You can also set up a monthly recurring donation for 2022.
  8. Make your online purchases through AmazonSmile which is run by Amazon.com as a unique way to support charities. You will get the same service, same merchandise, and the same prices. Register with AmazonSmile and designate the Whosoever Gospel Mission to receive a percentage of all the eligible purchases you make on AmazonSmile. You can search for the Mission on AmazonSmile, or you can type in the following link: http://smile.amazon.com/ch/23-1352579. You won’t pay any more for your purchases, but you will be helping the Whosoever Gospel Mission.
  9. Make a gift to the Mission through PayPal Giving Fund. Search “Donate with PayPal Giving Fund” or go to PayPal Giving Fund’s website: www.paypal.com/us/fundraiser/hub and search “Whosoever Gospel Mission.” We get the full value of your donation – PayPal doesn’t charge us any fees.

Christmas will be here and gone before we know it. But through your kind and generous support, the peace, hope and joy of Christmas will continue throughout the New Year in the lives of our men. Jesus is the reason for the season, but He is also our hope and joy for the rest of the year. Our men truly do thank you for your kind and generous support.

As we finish out 2021 and begin 2022, my prayer for you is that the Lord will abundantly bless you and your loved ones with good health, much happiness and great success in all of your endeavors. My open heart surgery and the ongoing pandemic made 2021 a very hard and challenging year for me and for the Mission. Thank you for standing with us. Your generous support kept the Mission alive and was used by the Lord to bless the 187 broken and hurting homeless men who lived at the Mission in 2021. Your gift also blessed their families, their friends and our society as a whole as our men became responsible, contributing citizens.

May the peace and joy of Christmas be yours,

Robert A. Emberger, D.Min.
Executive Director

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From the Director ~ Thanksgiving 2021

Dear Friend of the Mission,

Because COVID is still very much with us, our 2021 Thanksgiving Day celebration is once again going to be a somewhat small affair.  We normally have a big crowd of 130-140 people – our residents, volunteers, Mission friends, New Life Program graduates, staff members, and family members of our staff and residents.  I have celebrated 32 Thanksgivings at the Mission, and our Thanksgiving celebration is always one of the highlights of my year.  When my four kids were still living at home, our Thanksgiving Day dinner was always at the Mission.  But this year, in order to protect our residents from COVID being brought unknowingly into the Mission by a visitor, we are once again going to limit our Thanksgiving Day celebration to just our 55 residents and a few staff.  As you might recall, we had a serious COVID outbreak last December that affected 7 residents and 6 staff members.  We thank the Lord that we have not had any additional outbreaks since January 2021.  We want to keep it that way.  So the most loving thing we can do is to be extra, extra careful this holiday season for the sake of our men and staff. 

But we are still going to enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving Day feast fit for a King (the Lord Jesus Christ Himself :-)!).  Our Thanksgiving Day feast includes roasted turkey, homemade gravy, seven-cheese macaroni (which I make every year), creamy mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, savory stuffing with cranberries (which I also make from scratch every year), green beans almondine, buttered corn, rolls & butter, cranberry sauce, apple cider, and an amazing assortment of desserts – pies, cookies, brownies, cheesecake, and candy. 

For many of our residents, the Whosoever Gospel Mission family will be their family on Thanksgiving Day.  Together we will enjoy good food, warm fellowship, and a double portion of laughter as we gather around the tables.  Just recently, one of our former residents asked to come back into the New Life Program.  When he called us asking to come back, he shared that he didn’t realize until after he left that we really are like a family to him.  The Scriptures say that Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:11).  Likewise, we rejoice in calling our residents family.           

Thank you in advance for your kind and generous support.  Thank you for being part of the Whosoever Gospel Mission family.  The Mission family is like Jello in the old TV commercial – there is always room for more!

Thanking God for you,

Robert A. Emberger, D.Min.
Executive Director     

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